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L.A. LOOKBACK

Under The Big Black Sun

June 17, 2007|Rose Apodaca

STILL a year away from forming the Go-Gos, and three summers from her singular voice blasting from radios worldwide, Belinda Carlisle already strikes the pose of a rock star, her carmine stockings blazing under the white-hot sun in this scorched North Hollywood back lot.

It was a hazy August day in 1977, and L.A.'s punks, weaned on the Golden State's indie spirit and Tinseltown's film noir, were consumed with fiercely upholding the sub-cult's do-it-yourself ethos. In this case, it meant splicing together your own look, and least of all leaving the story for outsiders to tell. So four teens, including Carlisle, and their older photographer pal -- all of 26 -- got their kicks that day with an impromptu fashion shoot.

Carlisle had only to look to her scene sisters for cues.

Alice Bag, bending forward here like some Latina Marilyn Monroe, would play her first of many a notorious gig as front woman of the Bags within a few weeks.

Then there's Hellin Killer. Head shorn, clad in lingerie long before it was an MTV staple and stretching her tiny figure and oversized persona against the red door, Killer would seal her place in punk legend the next year, when she bashed Sid Vicious with his bass during one of the few Sex Pistols shows in the U.S.

Gun in hand, the ever-cool Pleasant Gehman, already the underground clubworld's "It" girl at 17, sums up the Wild West climate among punks here in those heady, early years.

Freezing the moment with her admittedly defective Minolta SLR-101 was Jenny Lens, nee Jenny Stern. The Valley girl had abandoned her weaving and hippie stance the year before, roused by the Ramones' premiere local show. Soon after, Patti Smith anointed the Cal Arts grad as "the girl with the camera eye." So what if the cheap camera had exposure problems. It only complemented the visual aesthetic they were all aiming for.

"I'd always felt like an outcast. But they let me in, and I gave them photos when I could afford to," remembers Lens, currently compiling her snapshots for "Punk Pioneers," which Rizzoli is publishing next spring. "Punk was fun then. We had fun, cheap, easy, make-it-yourself fun."

-- Rose Apodaca

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